Every Woman a Theologian
—  If He Wanted to He Would —
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Dear friend,
The people in the photo above, a photo taken a decade ago, had no idea what marriage would require. 
We believed it a solution to loneliness, a means of satisfaction, a way to get our needs met. We came to marriage as empty love-cups looking to the other person to fill us up. But no matter how much we poured into one another, there was a crack in the porcelain. Insecurity, anger, fear, and generational bondage widened that crack, consuming any goodness we poured in.
There were beautiful moments: the births of our children, our first home, beautiful sunsets and a baby's first steps and working together toward a common goal. But two years in, the cracks were widening – and they kept widening until years five and six. The loneliness was excruciating, further aggravated because we'd been told marriage was the solution to it. We were deeply dissatisfied in our relationship and in each other, disappointed at the reality, wishing for something different. Our needs were not met, so we found other ways to meet them – some not so healthy.
In other words: Marriage was not “best friends forever”. We were miserable.
We could shift the blame to many things: Bad teachings from purity culture; unrealistic expectations of what “spiritual leadership” was supposed to be; idealism about emotional availability; refusal to take interest in one another's hobbies; terrible communication patterns and reactions; wishing this for an “end all be all” spouse. All of those things were real. But through three years of on-and-off counseling (both licensed professional and biblical) we learned the name for the thing destroying our marriage: selfishness
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It's not a popular concept these days, acknowledging selfishness. We love to point out the narcissism in others but rarely will we look inside ourselves. In the famous Greek myth on which the word “narcissism” is based, Narcissus had a lover. Her name was Echo. She followed Narcissus to the fatal pool where he fell in love with his own beautiful face. And as he wasted away, Echo could only repeat the things she heard him say.
When Narcissus saw himself, he only saw beauty. And Echo could only repeat back what he affirmed about himself. This circular relationship killed Narcissus and condemned Echo to a lifetime of wandering. The Greek myth illustrates a profound difference between worldly culture and biblical relationships. In the world's way, people are useful as long as they adore, affirm, and applaud us. There is no accountability or authentic communication in this model. But in the Jesus Way, relationships are covenantal. A covenant is a commitment, a sacred vow before God. Marriage is a covenant, but so is the Church community. When we come into Christ's family, we join a new covenant in Christ's blood (Luke 22:20). In both marriage and the Church, Jesus calls us to see ourselves and others honestly. This is not the same as self-deprecation, criticism, or false humility, nor is it the world's way of flattery and constant adoration. 
As a young woman, I adopted a lifestyle dependent on constant adoration. There's a phrase I've heard in recent years that I lived by (albeit in different words) early in our marriage: “If he wanted to he would”. I thought Josh was lucky to have me. I could cook, clean, manage a house, work a full time job while earning a degree, AND (later) do it all pregnant! I looked in the mirror and saw beauty. And I did not hear Josh echoing my sentiments, at least not as much as I would have liked.
Back then we didn't have terms like “mental load” and “division of labor”; there were no Instagram reels mocking husbands for forgetting the dishes. But I identified with all those things. If he actually cared, he would take care of this, I thought. But what I meant was: If he wanted me to respect him, he would do it my way, which is the best, most thought-out, obvious way. 
If he wanted to, he would.
I am sure there are other ways this phrase is said, intended, and used - I'm not addressing those meanings (e.g: settling for a guy who isn't pursuing you because he's the convenient option: big no). In marriage, this mentality was destructive and obscene. Rather than communicate my needs, I wanted him to “know”. Rather than give grace for a brain that operates different from mine, I wanted him to do it my way. Rather than follow the Jesus Way of relationships - seeing myself honestly as a flawed person in need of Christ - I followed my anger, frustration, arrogance, and fear. I elevated myself (my ideas, my control, my preferences, my research) and thought little of the Holy Spirit's influence and power to transform our relationship. I was blind to the MANY ways Josh was serving us. He cleaned the house, but didn't wipe the counter. He worked a 17 hour day, but went to the gym afterward for an hour. He watched the baby with no complaints, but played a video game while he did it. He read his Bible, but he listened on audio and didn't take notes. 
My personal Narcissus pool affirmed that I was, indeed, the smartest person in the room, and nothing Josh did could measure up to my standards. This isn't to say Josh was innocent; he brought hurts to our marriage, too, but that's his story to tell (further below in this email). I am a strong woman speaking to strong women, and consider this my warning bell: If your way is usually best, it's probably pride, not wisdom. 
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Anytime we elevate our own will and ego above the will of God, we are stepping into dangerous territory. We are stepping into the Narcissus story. We stare at ourselves, full of justification, refusing to believe the best, to humble ourselves, to seek help when needed – and before long we're drowning in our own image. Stare too long and even the desperate affirmations of a spouse won't bring you back. The crack in your porcelain is so wide, all the love poured in pools out into opportunities to consume your own reflection. 
But here's the good news: Christ can stop the cycle. 
And here's the even better news: He wants to.
God always does what He promises, but He also won't force you to take Him up on His healing. You must participate in the Spirit's work. He won't change your feelings, but He will walk with you as you process them. He won't force your spouse to act against his or her free will, but He will offer all the resources to step out in obedience. In our case that was seeking counsel (LPC and biblical, both), being transparent and prayerful with godly friends, and remaining in the Word of God and prayer over one another.
Little by little, Josh and I turned away from the messages affirming the worst in each other and turned toward the truth of God. We learned to apologize truly and quickly. We learned to move toward each other, to hear each other, to stop letting things we saw in extended family extend down to us. We learned to be “kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, as God in Christ has forgiven [us]”. (Eph. 4:32)
We fought for our covenant because Christ was fighting for us. And we made it. Last week we celebrated ten years married. Ten years hard-won, ten years full of trials, suffering, difficulty, pain, and also goodness and mercy. I no longer say “if he wanted to, he would” about anyone except Jesus. If He wanted to heal us, He would. 
He wanted to, and He did.  - Phylicia Masonheimer

What does it mean to be a man? A rock, a pillar, a fortress? What does it mean to be a husband? Home safe, bills paid, safe home? A fortress is made when wars wage on. To protect those who reside there. When fires burn they don’t consume the safe, where jewels are stowed inside.
But what if the threat is actually behind your wall? The misguided captain. The egotistic general. The apathetic doomsday colonel.
What if a spark begins a blaze within the would-be safe - making it unsafe, destroyed from the inside? The angry hiss. The silent glare. The fuse that burns both short and hot.
White-washed tombs, men like these were called. Corrupting sanctuary. Are we that much unlike these men?
I, myself, saw marriage as a sweet escape from loneliness, escape from life with my one-companion. As I grew and developed my faith I began to see hope in God’s provision and security and comfort. And through that I saw Phy as someone who loved the Lord. And I wanted to learn to love Him alongside her.
Did I provide her a fortress? If the title of marriage alone is a fortress, then yes. But I had preconceived notions of what it would look like and ruled that idealism over her like an apathetic tyrant.
Did I provide her a safe home? I worked hard, we had food, cars, and a place to stay on the good side of town; yes. But I didn’t allow her to be true to herself. To be sincere, and transparent. I had an ammunition belt full of bullets, each with a past injury engraved on the full metal jacket, just waiting to pierce her heart at any giving moment.
All the while I’m running a three-ring circus, and the center pole of the big top is the log in my eye. Knowing math pretty well, I deduced I'd gone the extra mile and forgiven her 491 times, but I turned a blind eye to the mountain of unforgotten pain underneath the rug.
You wonder why I say all this; you might think “what’s the point?” Loving is a daily choice and forgiveness is a daily death. Didn’t Christ choose to die all day in the most possibly torturous, excruciating way?
We must choose to love, choose to fight, choose to pray with our wife every night. 
Tell her she’s lovely, tell her she’s right, tell her she’s the one you’ll come home to each night.
The sole reason we have made it to 10 years is our love for God and the fact we would never consider leaving the covenant we are in. It’s such a powerful thing, trusting God to save you from the ever-approaching reality, normality, and immorality of an unwarranted divorce. And it’s because of this I KNOW without a doubt nothing is going to change our covenant (except for the better) in the next 10, 30, 50+ years! 
Our shared love for God has given us each the grace and endurance to press on and forgive in the face of controversy, pain, and sorrow. Love your wife as Christ loved the church; with a servant heart, and a sacrificial spirit.   - Josh Masonheimer
Note: Josh and I have been a radically healed and transformed through counseling, church community, godly friendships, and the Holy Spirit's work. We share our story to give hope to those who are yet to reach the other side. Covenant matters! But covenant does not ignore abuse or infidelity. These things must be addressed and are grounds for divorce when one spouse refuses to repent. If you are seeking help, please reach out to a trusted person in your community (we cannot give marriage advice) and if you aren't sure if what you are experiencing is indeed abuse, please see the book Is It Abuse? by Darby Strickland.
Five Faves

  • My 10 year anniversary dress: Lots of requests for the link! I loved this dress. Perfect for being outdoors - surprisingly warm given how sheer the sleeves are. My shoes were thrifted Ralph Lauren ($5!)
  • Butterscotch oatmeal cookies: Adeline made these for Monday night Bible study and I'm loving them!
  • RX Bars: I hated these the first time I tried them but now they are always in my purse. Texture takes some getting used to, but I love them for a quick protein on the go.
  • Lindywell Pilates: I love that I can pick this up anytime and choose a workout customized to my timeframe! As I work on strengthening my core, Lindywell is my go-to.
  • Our new Bible study structure: In late fall I began praying about how to structure my weekly bible study (Josh and I each lead discipleship groups, and also attend a family small group together). I knew what God was telling me to change, but it was a big departure from my usual classes. After 6 weeks of hosting the new structure I am delighted with how well it's been bringing us together in the word, community and prayer!
    • First hour: community time. I dedicate a full hour to talking amongst ourselves and, depending on the week, asking deeper questions like:
      • What is your testimony/the story of your faith journey?
      • What is God teaching you right now?
      • What is something you've learned in Scripture recently?
    • Second hour: teaching time. I keep this simple: I choose a topic (Holy Spirit, salvation, trinity, etc) and look up 12-15 of the Scriptures on the topic. Then we go down the list verse by verse, looking at the context and writing thoughts on a whiteboard. We conclude with prayer.
Ask Anything Q/A

How can I best prepare to marry someone who works in ministry?
Josh and I did not come to ministry at the beginning of our marriage (he was an engineer and I was working in higher education) so our transition to this life was different than some. But here are a few things that may help you prepare (congratulations!):
  • Surround yourself with godly people with whom you can be honest and authentic. In the hardest times we had people praying for us, supporting us, and walking with us. You should choose these people carefully, but not critically. You may have to find them in your church staff or even at a different church or interdenominational bible study if being transparent with a congregant causes conflict of interest (this is a real issue for ministry leaders). But pray for those friendships and cultivate them!
  • Be prepared for the emotional load. Pastors and ministry leaders deal with life, death, marriages beginning and ending, and deep theological questions with real world implications. The work is HEAVY and it will impact you both. Having community helps, but being in prayer and Scripture is vital - praying for one another and with one another with a listening ear to God and your spouse.
  • Get ready for criticism. There is no way out but through on this one. You will hear criticisms of your spouse that are entirely unfair. You will hear some that are quite valid. I recommend both you and your spouse read Pastors and Their Critics by Joel Beeke… and re-read as necessary!
  • Keep your eyes open to God's goodness and CELEBRATE what Jesus does. Josh and I celebrate the smallest spiritual “wins”. When God is moving, we want to see it. That means we give God credit for things a lot of people would try to rationalize away. We see God moving in people's lives and we want to honor that answered prayer! This joy unites us and keeps us going on the days it's hard. Write them down. Re-read them. Memorize God's movements in the day to day. He is there, for the taking.
for the awakening,